Yes, it's finally started - first session of radiotherapy was today. And you know what? It was fine! I know it will gradually become less fine, as the side effects start to make themselves known (hello, it's burned, red skin here....closely followed by sore throat and mouth ulcers.....and galloping along just behind but catching up fast is loss of taste and appetite......but outrunning them all, and outlasting them too is extreme fatigue.....). No one said radiotherapy would be fun, but it is powerful magic in the armoury of the hospital, so I shall suck it up (pretty much literally!).
Wearing the mask wasn't as uncomfortable as I feared, even though I had to wear it for about 25 minutes today, as the radiographers had to do a scan to make sure everything was lined up properly and compare it to the scan from 10 days ago. Interestingly, and gratifyingly, they had to adjust the bed I was lying on because my face is less swollen than when they made the mask. Of course, I can't feel the radiation entering my body so it is a case of lying there with a big blue mask moulded to my face and bolted down around my head, neck and shoulders while the x-ray arm moves around, above and underneath me. It really is incredible technology and I feel very lucky to be able to take advantage of it.
Being a good girl, I had obeyed the instructions in the changing room and put my hospital gown on "like a dressing gown", tying the various ties as indicated. Of course, the first thing I have to do on entering the radiation room is take it off and put it on backwards!! They have to lower the gown so that my shoulders are bare and it's easier to do and causes no problems for the mask if I wear it backwards. (Note to self:: remember this for future sessions....).
I was invited to take a CD to listen to during my treatment. My lovely uncle had sent me a Paolo Nutini CD because he thought one song in particular would be an uplifting and positive song to listen to and he was absolutely right - so, Uncle Reggie, you will be pleased to know that all through today's session, I was listening to the singing Scottish-Italian! It was a perfect choice and I shall listen to it again on my last session. In the meantime, I can inflict my eclectic musical collection on the radiographers <rubs hands with glee>. I did ask if they had any requests for the type of music they wanted me to bring but they are leaving it entirely up to me :-D
I said to Neil afterwards that, just as the radiographers left the room to press the buttons and start it all off, I suddenly felt very tearful. I think it's partly because I was so relieved that this stage of treatment is finally starting (it has felt like a very long time coming!) and partly because it makes it all so real again. Surgery made it real but over the last few weeks, as I have recovered and regained energy and got a little bit used to my face, it's felt like it did before surgery - as if it's not really happening to me. Today reminded me that it is happening to me, I do have cancer and I do have a long way to go to get to that magical point where I am officially in remission. Also, being a bit of a wuss, there was some part of me that was crying in weary anticipation of the side effects.....
Still, no side effects today so afterwards I felt fine. I picked up my list of appointments for the next 29 sessions and my free car-parking pass (that will save me a fortune!!) and came home to spend some time in the sun-drenched conservatory, with a visit this afternoon from a friend who came bearing flowers and Hotel Chocolat goodies - mmmmmmm! I was advised this morning to eat lots of calorific foods during treatment....I can't possibly begin to tell you how much of a hardship that will be!!
Another kind friend offered me a Reiki session and I went over to hers yesterday morning to be Reikied (have I just invented a new word? I think I may have!). It was a very relaxing but also interesting experience...without going into too much detail, some of the things I felt/saw during the session were a bit unexpected, at least on my part! And the slightly weird thing was that all during the treatment, Sue's left eye kept watering - which is one of the side effects of my surgery, which I hadn't mentioned to her and which wasn't in evidence during the treatment. As Alice said, curiouser and curiouser...... I think I will book some more sessions, as it definitely made me feel relaxed and calmer.
I seem to be working backwards from today to the weekend, but that's the consequence of not updating on a daily basis! I went to church on Sunday and had put my name down to read. This is something I used to do on a regular basis before my surgery and thought nothing of it, standing behind the lectern and reading for a couple of minutes, making eye contact with the congregation. This time, it was much more demanding...not an ordeal, just hard. I did make eye contact as much as I could. There were a few words in the reading that caused me some difficulty ("people" is particularly hard, with two bilabial plosives, as they say....) but all in all, it was okay. I went to sit down, felt okay and then the woman sitting next to me clasped my hand and said "Well done" - and that was all it took to release the tears. Cue a little bit of genteel and subtle crying during the next hymn. At the end, loads of people came up and said how well I had read and how brave I was to do it and in fact, a couple of them said that they had always been too nervous to get up and read, but if I could do it, they certainly were going to do it now.
I'm glad if that's the case but, you know, I don't feel brave. I just think this is something I have to do if I want to live as normal a life as I can from now on. Bravery is the young person I saw at hospital this morning, bald from chemo, waiting for radiotherapy so more punishment for their body, being sick into a bowl because of the toxic drugs and apologising for it. That's much braver than anything I am doing. I don't feel I have a choice about things - I owe it to my family to give myself the best possible chance of getting better. I keep saying to them that I have many years of nagging left in me, so I want to be able to indulge myself :-)
I have chosen my CD for tomorrow - Scheherezade by Rimsky-Korsakov: a piece of music I listened to a lot as a youngster but which fell from favour for a long time until a friend suggested it recently during an online discussion about music. Thank you, Frodo! Now to see if the radiographers like it.....
Day 1 done and dusted. Bring on Day 2....